Your mind is racing and you cannot fall sleep: You have a presentation and an exam tomorrow. You have an interview for a leadership position. Your roommate is driving you crazy. You have to wake up early for work. On top of everything your family is pressuring you to figure out what you’re doing with your life after graduation. Sound typical? You’re not alone. On average college students get an average of 6 hours of sleep per night, due to an overload of activities. Most adults need an average of 7.5 to 9 hours per night.
You turn to look at the glaring red numbers on your clock, it’s been two hours and you’re still awake. If only you could fall asleep so you could feel rested for your busy day tomorrow!
Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and obesity. Lack of sleep increases the hormone ghrelin which increases hunger for high calorie foods. It also decreases the hormone leptin which reduces appetite. Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts GPA and academic performance. Sleep strengthens memory by reorganizing information learned during the day making it easier to recall later. Sleep also strengthens memory by weeding out the less successful connections in the brain. Also, the brain replays experiences during sleep, enhancing memory. Sleep deprivation increases mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep increases the release of stress hormones which weaken the immune system and make your body more susceptible to illnesses. These stress hormones can also lead to skin inflammation and can worsen acne. Lack of sleep also reduces the skin’s ability to stay hydrated, leading to a dull skin tone. So get your beauty rest!
Try these yoga poses to help you fall asleep. In yoga, forward folds and forward bends tend to be more soothing and relaxing, so don’t do any back-bending before bedtime; this will re-energize you and wake you up!
1. Reclining Angle Pose
This pose improves circulation in your abdomen, helping to calm your nerves.
2. Downward-facing Dog Pose
This pose relaxes your nervous system, relieving anxiety and tension.
3. Seated forward fold
This pose sooths the sympathetic nervous system, massages the digestive system and relives anxiety and tension.
4. Child’s pose
This pose calms your nervous system, lowers blood pressure, relaxes your body and mind and releases tension in the back, neck, shoulder and arms.
5. Leg’s up the Wall
This pose helps calm your nerves, relieve fatigue and releases your lower back.
Next, breathe in deeply through your nose while tightening all the muscles in your body-even your face. Tense and hold your breath for five counts. Then relax your muscles and breathe out loudly through your mouth. Repeat one or several more times. Continue to breathe deeply in and out through your nose. Focus on your breath instead of thoughts that jump into your mind. One of my yoga teachers said to imagine as if your thoughts are clouds passing by, acknowledge them and let them pass. Before you know it you will (hopefully) drift into sleep. Namaste!
Sparrowe, Linda. (2002). The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health. (p. 260-261)
University of Georgia Health Center. (2012). http://www.uhs.uga.edu/sleep/index.html
Kalat, James. Biological Psychology (2009). (p. 282-283).